In what is a pleasantly surprising move, the National Innovation Council and the Planning Commission have announced a hackathon on April 6th & 7th, 2013, asking users to come and aid the government in visualizing India’s 12th five year plan.

Public can participate in three categories – visualizations, short films/animations and mobile applications. Visualisation category primarily covers infographics with respect to different subjects like wildlife in India, water conservation etc. Interested people can also make submissions for the short films/animation category. Mobile applications category invites web and mobile apps from developers on different . It appears that these apps will become a part of the Mobile Seva Project. The data.gov website directs readers to the Mobile Seva website for reference and ideas. Participants can submit more than one entry in multiple categories.

The hackathon will take place across different venues in the country such as IIT Madras, IIT Kanpur, IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi, Delhi University, TISS Mumbai, IIIT Hyderabad and IISc Bangalore. Registration for the hackathon opens on March 22, 2013, and teams can not have more than 4 people.

The Mobile Seva Project

The Mobile Seva National Rollout was announced by the government earlier this year. This project intends to provide citizens with the government services on mobile phones to avoid multiple visits to government offices. The draft RFP for technology partners for this project was also released earlier in March requesting for stakeholder feedback. The government is looking to partner with private technology companies for a period of 3 years. Some of the features of this project include mGov appstore, mGov app market, SMS gateway, USSD gateway, IVRS, a bouquet of mobile applications. We suspect that the applications developed during this hackathon will be integrated into this project.

The State of Data.gov

Some changes are taking place at Data.gov.in, the Indian governments open data platform: 180 data sets are now up on the portal, communities have been established to focus on three segments (Agriculture, Health and Developers). In addition, 66 Data Controllers have been appointed. However, a note from NIC on the website, points out (and rightly so), that the progress in uploading data sets has been “less than satisfactory”. Abysmal is more like it: the data portal was launched in September last year with 13 datasets. So that’s only 167 datasets added in almost six months, less than one dataset per day.

The number of apps has gone down. At the time of data.gov.in’s launch it had four apps with four government departments participating. Now there are only three apps from two departments. Some of the datasets published are just lists – like this list of “Copyrights for Softwares Developed under DeitY Funding“, which clearly is just a list, and not data you can visualize. A copy of the note on the data.gov.in website:

National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy

As per the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP), all the Ministries are required to place non-sensitive data generated by the Departments using public funds, in the public domain for open access and use by the citizens. While majority of the Departments have nominated Data Controllers in terms of the policy, the progress in uploading data sets by the Ministries is still less than satisfactory. We need to correct the situation and capture fully the principles of NDSAP. Accordingly, following suggestions are made for an early implementation of the policy:

1. To begin with, the head of NIC team in the Ministry can be asked to explore and identify the potential datasets available for uploading
2. The Ministry may provide formal approval for release of datasets so identified by the NIC in the open domain. Ministry may also provide necessary financial/human resources to prepare, publish, and update the datasets along with associated metadata in the Data Portal.
3. Meanwhile the Ministry may establish NDSAP Cell (as described in guidelines issued earlier) on priority to notice sustainability to the initiative.
4. NIC would also include a chapter in the implementation guidelines on the auto provisioning of requisite data in Open Format for all existing & eGov applications being implemented, so as to ensure that the datasets once uploaded remain current in future.